The Showtime crime drama Ray Donovan was one of those shows where you never really knew who else was watching it. Being a Boston boy with a bunch of brothers (but not a Bunchy), I was a fan from Day 1, and I know my Dad (cue the jokes) never missed an episode. But besides me and my old man, I don’t think I could name a single friend or colleague who watched the show — one I’m writing about in the past tense, mind you.
That’s because earlier this month, Showtime unceremoniously canceled the long-running series, which was one of the pillars of the network. Weeds, Dexter and Californication debuted in 2005, 2006 and 2007, respectively, and they powered Showtime until the network could grow another crop of shows, like Homeland in 2011 and Ray Donovan, which premiered in June 2013.
Earlier this year on January 13, Showtime’s Gary Levine told a group of television reporters gathered at TCA that Ray Donovan was “nearing the end of its run.” He wasn’t kidding, pun intended. The season finale aired six days later, and though no one knew it at the time, the episode would double as a series finale.
When news of the cancellation came down on February 4, it came as a genuine shock, even to a seasoned industry observer such as myself. Previous weeks had brought word that Watchmen and Mindhunter may not move forward at HBO and Netflix, and though each of those announcements left me disappointed, I could understand them — from a creative perspective in the case of Watchmen, and from a financial perspective in the case of Mindhunter.
But Ray Donovan? That was a real blow. I’ve spent seven seasons watching the Donovan family, and their story cries out for one more season, even if it’s an abbreviated one. Showtime had the chance to take the bat out of Ray’s hand after Season 6. That would’ve made more creative sense. But by bringing the show back for another season, given the way it played out, the network didn’t seem to realize that it was really under contract for two seasons — albeit with the audience, rather than the cast and crew.
Which is why I’m delighted to report that Ray Donovan himself, Mr. Liev Schreiber, has taken to Instagram to give fans an early Valentine in the form of hope.
“It’s hard to describe how amazing it feels to those of us in the Ray Donovan family who have been lucky enough to experience the overwhelming love and support that all of you have expressed for our show since the news broke that Ray would not return. What’s even more incredible is that it seems your voices have been heard. Too early to say where or when, but with a little luck and your ongoing support, there will be more Ray Donovan. So to all the Donofans who got their bats out and beat the odds. Thank you,” wrote Schreiber.
Now, I’ve seen this move before. Sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it don’t. But there’s something about Schreiber’s Instagram post that feels different. I wonder if Levine truly had a change of heart after seeing the outcry from Ray fans, who would settle for a shortened season, so long as it provides closure.
On that front, showrunner David Hollander has already said he was prepared to wrap things up with one last season, which is why the show’s writers designed a two-season arc that turned the Season 7 finale into a cliffhanger. Showtime owes it to fans not to leave us hanging as long as Schreiber and Jon Voight, who plays the beating heart of the show, are willing to return.
As for the pesky details of that potential return, there are two words that stand out in Schreiber’s Instagram statement. First and foremost, “Donofans.” Liev, I love ya, but don’t call us that. We don’t call ourselves that. The other word that stands out is “where.” Showtime is owned by ViacomCBS, which is launching a new streaming service that will serve as an expansion of CBS All Access, and encompass brands like Comedy Central, Paramount Network, BET and MTV. If the conglomerate decided to continue Ray Donovan in some form, they could move the show over there, and fans would have little choice but to subscribe. I believe Showtime and the new service will also be available as a bundle.
With Homeland and Shameless also coming to an end this year, it would be wise of Showtime to bring back Ray for one more year, if only to appease longtime fans who have no shortage of streaming services to choose from these days. I think it would be a much-appreciated gesture of goodwill towards subscribers, who might be less inclined to watch the next generation of Showtime series — including Halo and Mr. Ripley — if they think the plug will be pulled in the fourth quarter of the show.
If Ray Donovan does, indeed, return, I’ll be grateful to whoever makes that happen, whether that’s Showtime, its parent company, or a third party. All I know is, this is a problem that can be fixed, and one that is worth fixing.
To watch a trailer for the most recent season of Ray Donovan, click here.